During a glittering football career Rio Ferdinand won trophies galore, played 81 times for England and fulfilled a personal dream by captaining his country.
However, the former Leeds United star’s world was turned upside down when he lost his 34-year-old wife Rebecca to breast cancer in May 2015.
Together they had three children, now aged 10, eight and five, and in a BBC One documentary, Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum And Dad, which is being screened tomorrow night, the former footballer opens up about his grief.
The deeply moving film shows Ferdinand trying to come to terms with his loss and its effects on him and his children.
It also follows him as he meets other families coping with bereavement and looks at what help is available for parents and children who have experienced loss.
He says he decided to make the film for his children. “At the beginning, I was distraught. I didn’t really want to talk to anybody, I kept looking at my kids and thinking, ‘How do I get everything across to them? How do I make it easier for them? How do I make sure that they can have a normal life going forward?’
“But funnily enough, going through this process, making the documentary, has changed me a little bit – meeting various people and getting a better understanding of how to approach things. I did it to make it easier for [my children], and also to help other people.”
At times it has been a difficult journey but he points out that grieving is an ongoing process.
He said: “There’s so many layers to it that you’ve just got to keep trying to improve.
“I’ve got three kids: my little girl is really innocent and just says freely what she wants; my middle one is very boisterous, but emotional and really touchy-feely; and my older one is a little bit like myself, he’s not as touchy-feely and he’s a bit more of a closed book.
“It’s trying to plug into them in different ways to make sure they have the best upbringing possible – emotionally. [But] we’re all right; they’re doing all the activities that God sends – I’m like an Uber driver – and they’re good.”
Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum And Dad, is on BBC One on Tuesday night at 9pm.
The rise of a football star
Rio Ferdinand joined Leeds United from West Ham United in November 2000 for £18m – a then record fee between English clubs.
At the time this made Ferdinand, who had just turned 22, the world’s most expensive defender.
He went on to play 73 times for the Whites, scoring three goals.
Ferdinand was part of the Leeds team that was beaten by Valencia in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2001.
In 2002 he joined arch rivals Manchester United for £30m – breaking the British transfer record.
During a glittering career he won 81 caps for England and finished his playing days with QPR, before retiring in 2015.